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Supreme Court Hears Hours Of Affirmative Action Arguments

The Supreme Court's hearing went longer than scheduled, with justices hearing about five hours of arguments.
Posted at 9:03 PM, Oct 31, 2022

The future of affirmative action and use of race in college admissions took center stage at the conservative-dominated Supreme Court Monday.

Separate lawsuits filed against Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill argue the consideration of race disadvantages some students and violates the Constitution.

Current Supreme Court precedent says race can be a factor in admissions, but schools can’t set a racial quota. The influence must vary for each student, and it must be one of many factors schools consider.

The conservative justices expressed doubt about the use of race. One of the existing Supreme Court precedents wrote that consideration of race would hopefully be unnecessary after 25 years, but Chief Justice John Roberts doubted, under the current environment, whether the consideration of race will ever end.

“I don't see how you can say that the program will ever end," he said. "Your position is that race matters because it's necessary for diversity, which is necessary for the sort of education you want. It's not going to stop mattering. At some particular point, you're always going to have to look at race because you say race matters to give us the necessary diversity."

Asking about an applicant’s race isn’t about equality. It’s about the educational benefits of a diverse student body. Opponents argue there are other, more neutral ways for universities to achieve diversity. Nine states already prohibit schools from considering race in admissions decisions.

"Holistic review takes place today at colleges that do not use race as a factor in admissions, and there's no reason to assume and there's no evidence in the record that the students of those colleges are not receiving the educational benefits of diversity," said Patrick Strawbridge, an attorney for Students for Fair Admission.

If the justices overturn this precedent, it could have a big impact on elite universities where admissions are very competitive. Justice Elena Kagan said that would also impact what she called the "pipeline to leadership."

"If universities are not racially diverse, and your rule suggests that it doesn't matter, well, then all of those institutions are not going to be racially diverse either," Kagan said. "I thought that part of what it meant to be an American and to believe in American pluralism is that actually our institutions are reflective of who we are as as a people in all our variety."

The Court's final decision is not expected for months.